HR Administration

Are You Prepared for an Active Shooter at Your Workplace?

By Jon Hyman

Dec. 3, 2015

Today’s post was going to be about accommodating different holiday traditions at work, but that post will have to wait. Yesterday, San Bernardino happened.

It’s not right that we have to think about how to respond if an active shooter enters your workplace. It’s not right that the phrase active shooter is even part of our vocabulary. But, we do, and it is. And your business needs to know how to respond in the event this evil enters your business.

Thankfully, the Department of Homeland Security has put together a guide on how to respond to an active shooter [pdf].

The guide instructs:

  • How to respond if an active shooter is in your vicinity (evacuate, hide, or, as a last resort, take action)
  • How to respond when law enforcement arrives
  • How to train your staff (including implementing an Emergency Action Plan and running training exercises)
  • How HR and management should prepare for, and respond during, an active shooter event

As far as an Emergency Action Plan, DHS suggests that an effective one contains each of the following:

  • A preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies
  • An evacuation policy and procedure
  • Emergency escape procedures and route assignments (i.e., floor plans, safe areas)
  • Contact information for, and responsibilities of individuals to be contacted under the EAP
  • Information concerning local area hospitals (i.e., name, telephone number, and distance from your location)
  • An emergency notification system to alert various parties of an emergency including:

    • Individuals at remote locations within premises
    • Local law enforcement
    • Local area hospitals

If you don’t have an Emergency Action Plan, and otherwise do not know how to respond to an active shooter in your workplace, you should contact your attorney, who can assist. Also, there are several companies that specialize in active shooting training for businesses. Northeast Ohio happens to be home to one of the best, ALICE.

As with most issues in the workplace, the proverbial ounce of prevention really matters. While there exists no foolproof way to protect your workplace against the tragedies that we’ve seen lately (and seem to be happening with frightening frequency), a few proactive steps can go a long way to putting you in the best place to deter and respond.

I’ll leave you with this thought. In the wake of this tragedy, lots will be written about the need for tougher gun laws, better help for the mentally ill, and Islamist extremism. The reality is that nothing can stop these events from happening. If an evil or sick person wants to get his or her hands on some guns and impose his or her evil or illness on a group of innocent people, there is nothing anyone to can do to stop it. All we can do is offer our prayers in its aftermath.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at

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